Freelance Rollercoaster in the Arts & DipCP5

In the last few weeks our household has felt the deep disappointment of going down on the creativity rollercoaster which is the life of freelance theatremakers.  From the highs of creating the amazing When Mountains Meet as part of Glasgow Celtic Connections in February, Kath has to weather the news that Made in Scotland did not select the show as part of the EdFringe 2023 showcases.  The 20 artists involved in the creation and delivery of this Scottish Pakistani project have to accept the decision – I think I heard there were applications totalling £1.5m for the £300k Made in Scotland fund available .  Now Kath and the team are regrouping and looking at new opportunities. I hope, having been a member of the audience in the packed and glorious Cottiers Theatre, to be able to see the immersive, music storytelling autobiographical show again in the future.

My big dipper was a double blow when first the Costume and Scenic Design course we had been asked to prepare for the Ministry of Culture in Saudi Arabia was cancelled, and then a week later the Musical Theatre performer training programme which we were asked to expand on following the success of our 2022 delivery, was also cancelled.  No discussion, just an email, and now radio silence from them.  They may have given up on Musical Theatre, or found a less expensive training team, or just have had a bad day in the office – I guess I may never know.

Here’s what I wrote when midway through the 2022 programme for The Stage with a massive sense of onward positivity.

Over the years I have lost my job when a Board of Trustees decided to close down a charity with only half the Board members present or even aware of the plan. This was a solvent charity where I had already raised nearly half the funds needed for the following year.  I have been squeezed from a job by a decision of a Board that a major artform which we were developing was to be cut completely – I could continue in the job, but musn’t do anything to do with this artform.  I have had to close a festival down when the associated international conference just decided, 12 weeks before the festival, to move to a different country/city, leaving our sponsors wondering what the ****.   

In all these cases the decisions were made without discussion of the art, or the best things for the community we were serving, and often by people who had not bothered to look at the full picture. And in all these cases I have had to rethink my life, and check who my real friends are.

Good things do come from the awful tasks of the last few weeks which were to release all the creatives who were expecting to work with me this autumn, and tell the students who were expecting to be trained. I’ve seen the wonderful way in which people have taken the news – with immense support for me and my colleagues.  Deep sadness and a lack of understanding at the decision yes, but a pride in what we achieved in 2022 and what we had been working towards for this year.

As a freelancer we all get used to the fact that all of this work pre-producing, and then un-producing at times, is done unpaid and unacknowledged.  It is only when a project gets the green light and we are on the ground in the final planning stage that we as producers, planners, course writers, and champions of the work get paid.

So for me, I explore what replaces my expectation of spending 18 weeks this Autumn working with amazing inspiring and aspiring Arabic theatremakers.  I rub out a big section of my calendar and realise I now have time to dedicate myself to leading one more cohort of the Diploma in Creative Producing starting Nov 7th 2023.  This will be the fifth cohort. So far 32 UK and international theatremakers and producers have completed, or are knee deep in, the course so far. I invented it when lockdown came and, together with the amazing Faculty of 20+ international practitioners, it has been a joy to work with the next generation of producers. Here’s some more information

I have been blessed to have invented and run many projects which have worked. Some have got funding, some have been supported by investors/donors, and most have tried to do something which wasn’t being done already.   I am sure the Big Dipper will rise to a new high soon – for now I seek wise counsel from those in and around the MENA Countries, and consider how best to share the talent of the creatives I have with those who would most benefit from it.  

Thanks for reading.  Comments always welcome

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